January 23, 2021

halls and theaters face total closure



Montevideo, Jan 11 (EFE) .- Without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and cornered towards the total closure by the red numbers motivated by the pandemic, some Uruguayan show halls and theaters are experiencing the reopening of activities in a critical state that, they say, it compromises the population’s right to cultural offerings.

Suspended on the first day of the health emergency, on March 13, 2020, the shows returned in July, becoming Uruguay in the vanguard of the area, being the first country to open theaters or offer concerts, even international ones, such as those of the Julieta Venegas from Mexico or Kevin Johansen from Argentina.

However, and despite not registering covid-19 outbreaks, the rooms closed again in December when the peak of infections led the Executive to tighten its prevention measures. The complaint of the world of culture is that its sector is not a priority like others.

However, the authorities, even recognizing that the situation is difficult, have implemented support because, as the national director of Culture, Mariana Wainstein, tells Efe, “it has already become clear throughout the planet that cultural activity is not only important in terms of entertainment, but mental health “and that is necessary because” it creates awareness, commitment and solidarity. ”

WITHOUT PUMPS OR CYMBALS

After the Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, announced on January 6 that the shows would resume this Monday “with minimum capacity”, the vast sector of culture, which suffered one more impact when its carnival was canceled – the longest of the world with 40 days-, lives hours of “pain” and “uncertainty”.

As the president of the Uruguayan Federation of Independent Theaters (FUTI), Washington Sassi, points out to EFE, those who make a living from theater, dance and other arts are going through a “quite critical” moment due to the losses caused by opening with a capacity of 30% of room.

The president of FUTI, which encompasses some 20 groups, explains that only four of its associates could reopen, since most “do not have a way to meet expenses.”

Sassi and the president of the Uruguayan Society of Actors, Alicia Dogliotti, agree that support such as the “Butaca solidaria” program of the Ministry of Education and Culture -which aims to support theaters with a capacity of less than 300 locations and artists who worked in them – are insufficient.

According to Dogliotti, the situation in many theaters, added to the fact that 50% or 60% of SUA actors are unemployed, speaks of a “highly punished” cultural environment.

“Summer caught us badly, we have been extremely harmed by a suspended carnival (…), we have fellow technicians who are costume designers, staging, lyricists and artists on stage singing or dancers. It is a world that moves a lot of people and it no longer counts, “he says.

Wainstein agrees that the “worst impact” was for outdoor, summer-related events. It is “tremendous”, he tells Efe, because “cultural and tourist activity intersect.”

THE MUSIC GOES OFF

Installed in Montevideo since 2012, the Blast music hall announced its final closure on the 6th.

Musician and co-owner Matías Martínez describes the arrival of the pandemic to Efe as “a bucket of cold water” for his venue, which had opted to diversify the musical genres of its shows with “a large investment” to improve its conditioning.

With a capacity for between 300 and 400 people, Blast found that the 68 places enabled during the months that it reopened were not profitable and, although it had blues and jazz cycles with live painting or concerts by renowned artists such as Laura Canoura, the panorama it was dark.

“The offer was varied but under these numbers it is very difficult. All the rooms are going through the same thing, we being more independent is all at our lungs (…), paying a rent perhaps makes a difference and that is where we feel that we should have had some kind of support from the Government, “says the musician.

In this regard, Wainstein points out that his management negotiates with public companies “to support cultural infrastructures and make a difference in the payment of their fees”, in addition to other measures, such as trying to “get out of informality” in the sector and open of an internationalization office to search for “new markets for Uruguayan culture”.

Since the arrival of the pandemic, music and the rest of the performing arts have been reinvented through the online transmission of recitals from the artists’ homes or studios or the dissemination of theater and dance works.

Against this background, producer Gonzalo Rius, who worked in mega-concerts such as those made in Uruguay by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones or Roger Waters, proposed a plan that he describes as “urgent” for culture.

Rius, who is a member of the Uruguay Es Música collective, says that, based on dialogue with other colleagues, he believes that if the State agrees to hire artists or subsidize projects, the entire chain could be reactivated.

“It would seem interesting to me if resources such as public media were used (…) and a quality audiovisual product was generated based on concerts designed for that scheme,” he points out and adds that there are public funds for events that were not used in 2020 and could be reassigned.

A MACRO PROBLEM

Blast was not the only room cornered by covid-19, since others, such as Tractatus or the Teatro del Notariado, also ceased their activity.

Given that, as Sassi points out, the alarm in other theaters, such as the Montevideo Circular, is already on, it is necessary to reflect on why culture is not seen as a priority over others.

“Everything that has to do with culture has not been attended to properly when, in addition, (this) is one of the most important elements for the development of people,” says the actor and theater director.

Rius, Martínez and Dogliotti agree on this, who emphasizes that the closing of theaters “is a loss of heritage and identity” and should be a priority for the authorities.

Wainstein does not differ much when considering that “if you close a room, you close a very important value chain and an activity of value, partly intangible, but totally connected to economic development” in Uruguay.

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